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Number of Female Lawmakers in US Grows, But Still Low

In this photo taken Oct. 18, 2016, Florida Democratic Congressional candidate Stephanie Murphy meets with voters at a senior center in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Murphy went on to become the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected to Congress.
Number of Female Lawmakers in US Grows, But Still Low
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Although Hillary Clinton did not become the first woman to be elected president of the United States, there are now more female state legislators than ever before.

Beginning in January 2017, about 1,824 women will serve in the legislatures of the 50 states -- the highest number in American history. That is 24.7 percent of the more than 7,380 state house and senate seats.

In 1992, 20 percent of state legislators were women. By 2015, 24.4 percent of them were.

A record number of women were candidates this year for state legislative seats.

The legislatures of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Vermont have the highest percentage of women. Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming have the lowest percentage.

About 20 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress are women. Women make up a little more than half of the U.S. population.

However, the 2016 election did not bring the big change in the number of women in politics that some people expected, says Debbie Walsh. She is the director of the nonpartisan Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. She recently spoke with the Washington Post newspaper.

“For all of the talk of this being a change election, it was not a change election for women in politics. We just aren’t seeing enough of them,” she said.

The elections did bring some “firsts” for female lawmakers.

Starting in January 2017, 38 non-white women will serve in Congress. That is a record number. Thirty-five of them are Democrats and three are Republicans.

Democrat Catherine Cortez Mastro of Nevada will be the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate. And Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, will be the first Vietnamese-American woman in Congress.

All of the members of the U.S. House and Senate from the state of New Hampshire will be women.

Voters in Minnesota elected the first Somali-American state lawmaker. Voters in Kentucky elected its first black female legislator in 20 years. Forty Native American Democratic state legislators were also elected in states throughout the country.

Only two of the 50 American states have never elected a woman to serve in the U.S. House or Senate: Mississippi and Vermont.

The new Congress will be the most diverse group of American lawmakers ever. However, about 80 percent of its members will be white males. White men are about 31 percent of the U.S. population.

I’m Marsha James.

VOA's Christopher Jones-Cruise wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other